A leading progressive intellectual offers an "illuminating" agenda for how real democracy can triumph in America and beyond (Ari Berman, New York Times).
Since the New Deal in the 1930s, there have been two eras in our political history: the liberal era, stretching up to the 1970s, followed by the neoliberal era of privatization and austerity ever since. In each period, the dominant ideology was so strong that it united even partisan opponents. But the neoliberal era is collapsing, and the central question of our time is what comes next.
As acclaimed legal scholar and policy expert Ganesh Sitaraman argues, two political visions now contend for the future. One is nationalist oligarchy, which rigs the system for the rich and powerful while using nationalism to mobilize support. The other is the great democracy, which fights corruption and extends both political and economic power to all people. At this decisive moment in history, The Great Democracy offers a bold, transformative agenda for achieving real democracy.
Vanderbilt Law School professor Sitaraman (The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution) delivers a thoughtful, forward-thinking study of the state of American democracy. He argues that the four pillars of neoliberalism (global trade, industry deregulation, privatization of public services, and budget austerity) have created levels of economic inequality that pose a mortal threat to the country. Without systematic reform, Sitaraman argues, America will become a "nationalist oligarchy" in which a small group of elites controls the government and the economy by means of unlimited political spending, gerrymandering, voting restrictions, and media manipulation. To avoid this outcome, Sitaraman urges the forging of a new sense of American community, the dismantling of excessive corporate power, and the increased participation of "ordinary people" in the political system. He suggests a dizzying number of policies to further these goals, including the merging of the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and VISTA into one national service program, the aggressive application of antitrust laws, and such "radical" changes to the Supreme Court as the appointment of all federal appeals judges to the court as associate justices. Sitaraman's clear prose and willingness to tackle thorny problems are admirable, even if some of his proposals seem farfetched. Progressives will savor this idealistic blueprint for the future.